A pacifier is a rubber, plastic, or silicone nipple substitute given to an infant to suckle upon.
Many pediatricians recommend pacifiers for infants for a variety of reasons, including the prevention of SIDS and to “pacify” a cranky baby, as the name suggests. Every baby is different – some could care less about pacifiers, some find a pacifier helpful for winding down to sleep, and some babies are absolutely addicted to their pacifiers. You’ve probably heard that pacifiers can cause dental issues after prolonged use.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend ceasing pacifier use by the age of 2 or 2.5. Extended pacifier use can cause the top front teeth to protrude and tip forward, often times causing an “open bite” so that there is a large gap between the top and bottom teeth even when the child’s mouth is closed. In general, the earlier the pacifier is taken away, the better for the developing jaws, but long-lasting impacts on your child’s dentition are not expected if they stop using a pacifier by age 3. In general, we expect any malocclusion caused by a pacifier habit to naturally resolve on its own without intervention if taken away by age 2.5 to 3. If the pacifier persists as permanent teeth get ready to come in, an appliance or orthodontic treatment may be necessary to repair the tooth and jaw discrepancies.
The longer the habit continues, sometimes the more reliant the child becomes on the pacifier, so some doctors recommend taking it away as early as possible, with six months old being the ideal age to cease the habit. Once a child becomes emotionally attached to their pacifier as they get older, weaning can become even more difficult. However, most parents share with us that the process of taking away the pacifier usually ends up being a bigger deal emotionally for themselves than for their ever-adaptable child. Kids are very resilient, and although they might put up a fight for a few days, they quickly learn to leave their lives binky-free.
How do I wean the pacifier?
If you’ve decided it’s time to get rid of the pacifier, there are a few things that you need to consider.
1) The age of your child.
2) Your child’s attachment to the pacifier.
3) When your child is currently using a pacifier.
4) The method that you can be the most consistent with over time.
· Wean the pacifier cold turkey
When it’s time to get rid of the pacifier, throw them all away. Consider giving some warning, especially if your baby is older than 18 months.
For older toddlers, in the week or so leading up to getting rid of the pacifier, consider reading books about saying goodbye to the pacifier, talk about how they will no longer have the pacifier, and offer ideas for comfort items that they can use instead. It can even help to create a little story about sleeping without the pacifier now. This doesn’t need to be a long drawn out conversation, but giving your toddler a few days to process the upcoming change can be so helpful.
You can also incorporate one of these fun strategies:
Binky fairy /Binka bear- “Binky Fairy” who took the pacifiers and brought new toys or gifts. Some find great success with this little bear and bedtime story
Plant a Garden - Saw this idea one day to help little one be involved in weaning the pacifier.
“Mail” the pacifiers to exchange for a comfort item. - If you seal the pacifiers in an envelope to “send” them away, a package can arrive with a new stuffed animal or lovey.
· Broken binkies – When you snip the tip of the nipple of a pacifier, it impedes your child’s ability to create a seal in order to achieve the desired suction. Your child may become less interested in sucking on these broken pacifiers, and as long as you don’t buy any new ones, they’ll eventually accept that their pacifiers no longer work and it’s time to move on.
· Passing the torch – If there is a new baby in your family or neighborhood, some children will understand the concept of gifting their pacifiers to the brand new babies since they are no longer the baby of the group. Some parents have even arranged for their child to drop off their pacifiers at our office or the fire station to give to new babies in need!
· Some children love to follow rules, and many of patients simply give up their pacifiers after you tell them it’s time to be a big kid. Or maybe it’s because you promises them a prize and a certificate at their next visit if they stop the habit, but either way that seems to do the trick for many of our patients!
· Wean the pacifier slowly and use it only for sleeping (naps and nights)
If you have a baby or toddler who uses the pacifier for comfort outside of sleeping, you may decide that it’s best to go more slowly. Before you wean the pacifier completely, you may first make a rule that the pacifier can only be used for sleeping. It never leaves the crib. This is a slow weaning approach where you can eventually get rid of the pacifier during sleep times too, when you are ready.
· Eliminate the pacifier at nighttime
Only allow it during nap time (and keep it in the crib). The drive to fall asleep is higher at night than during naps so you will find more success eliminating it for night sleep prior to day sleep. This can be a great second step if you’ve already followed the above option .
How many days does it take to wean the pacifier?
That depends on the method that you choose, the age of your baby, and their temperament. In most cases, I find that the trickiest days are in that first week after getting rid of the pacifier. Be patient and consistent in your approach, and adjusting to life without the pacifier will be less painful.
Whatever method you choose, know that nobody knows that baby better than you. Talk with your pediatrician or dentist if you need help deciding the approach that fits your family best.
To know more, visit us.
iDent, Idyll Dental Clinic
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